Editors note: Now that the campaign season is officially underway, the weekly columns written by candidates have been put on hiatus until after Nov. 6. We will feature other opinion columns in their place. Today, we welcome back Dr. Ron McNinch, a former Variety columnist.
FOR the next several months, I will be writing my weekly column during the election season. Since this is a down cycle election, without the dynamics of a governor’s race or any other major islandwide race other than the Legislature, this race will be fairly easy to track.
To be frank, the primary will be pretty boring and fairly balanced. Just a couple of candidates will be knocked out on each side before the general election.
It is generally harder to get elected to the Legislature in a down cycle than in an up cycle because unsuccessful candidates from previous elections may elbow their way in. It still baffles me why Guam taxpayers even put up with funding and operating the partisan primary. The political parties should either learn to say no to the one or two low-energy candidates and save us the trouble. A big issue this week is the concern over putting a single independent candidate on the ballot for the congressional race. My general suggestion would be to make a single race independent ballot for the congressional race. If people only want to vote independent, give them only this small hand countable ballot with the candidate’s name and a place to write in someone else. Between elections, go for a major fix if needed. In the long term, Guam needs to look at its party approval process or simply drop partisan primaries.
The interesting thing about the independent concern is that no one can avoid a primary debate now in the delegate race. Since this is an off ballot item, debates become critical. Who will participate? Will such debates even matter? This will drive a lot of discussion. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me what I thought about the “Fab Five.” I asked him what did he mean and he explained that there were five senators some people didn’t like and have targeted for replacing. Of course I knew all of this and there was no need for him to explain it to me. He then went through some of the things that him or his friends might do to further their cause. I usually don’t give political advice, but I did ask him to consider a few basic facts about elections. We have studied negative campaigning on Guam for many years. One of the doctoral students in my PhD program, Kerwin Swint, did his dissertation research on this topic and I attended many of his presentations on how negative campaigns work. He is now at Kennesaw State University and speaks frequently on the topic.
The general goal of this “anti-Fab Five” group will be to talk bad about them or run ads against them. These tactics don’t really work on Guam and they often backfire. The reason is pretty simple: Unlike the U.S. mainland, people here actually know each other and they often know the candidates. When ads are ran against people targeting them, a basic scripting effect happens that sparks public discussions about the candidates targeted. Here is the basic cycle: The ad or words are put in public; they are believed or not believed; regardless whether a person believes these words or not, a voter then thinks about the person targeted and discusses them. My free mediocre political advice to all wannabe political operatives is simple. On Guam, if you don’t want someone to be elected, never talk about them. The more you talk about them, the more you help them. Your goal should be to talk as much as possible about people you actually want to get elected.